IN THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND
October 6, 1969
In the Matter of the Memorial Proceedings to Keith L. Seegmiller, Esquire
Hon. Kathryn J. Shook
Hon. James H. Pugh
Hon. Ralph G. Shure
Hon. Walter H. Moorman
Hon. Joseph M. Mathias
Hon. John P. Moore
Hon. Plummer M. Shearin
Hon. Irving A. Levine
Hon. H. Ralph Miller
Hon. Robert E. Clapp, Jr.
Respectfully submitted by Charles A. Docter, Esq.
For and On Behalf of the Bar Association of Montgomery County, Maryland, and responded to by the Hon. Kathryn J. Shook
P R O C E E D I N G S
JUDGE SHOOK: Mr. Miller
MR. MILLER: To speak on behalf of the brothers of the Bar of Keith Seegmiller will be Charles A. Docter.
MR. DOCTER: Your Honors, Mr. President, Members of the Seegmiller Family, Friends:
It was my sad duty to report to the Court in March of this year that we lost one of our top lawyers in this County, one of the most outstanding citizens of this County, Keith L. Seegmiller.
Keith Seegmiller was born in Saint George, Utah in 1902. He was the seventh of eight children. He had the misfortune of having his father pass away when he was only three years old and he had to fetch for himself. He grew up on the Plains in Utah and that resulted in a strong streak of rugged individualism as he grew older. He had to educate himself and he did a wonderful job, because in a very short time he became a teacher in the Utah schools and a principal in the Junior High in Utah.
But Keith Seegmiller was not content, he wanted to serve mankind more fully than either as a teacher or a principal, so he came in 1929 with his wife Elva to the lawyers’ town of Washington, D. C. He obtained a Government job and at night he went to G. W. Law School.
This was a difficult time, as we all know, because these were the days when the Great Depression hit our country and many people did not continue with their legal education under these kinds of circumstances, but Keith Seegmiller stuck it out and graduated from George Washington University Law School.
He then started a distinguished career as a member of the Bar. He worked for the Justice Department in the Civic Division. He was principally involved in appellate work and he tried cases in all the circuits on the Federal level and before the Supreme Court of the United States.
He became an expert on Veterans’ Insurance cases. He was so expert in this field that the Chief Justice of the United States asked him to prepare a digest of all the cases on Veterans’ Insurance, and this digest is still a very well recognized book on Veterans’ Insurance.
In 1943 Keith Seegmiller left the Government and went into private practice here in Montgomery County and in the District of Columbia. One of his principal early clients was the National Association of Counties. He served this group as Executive Director and, of course, he also counseled. In his position as the counsel and Executive Director of the National Association of Counties, he was able, in a very critical position in his country, to play an important role in the function of our Federal portion of our system of Government, since the counties are basic to this.
He became a highly successful lawyer in the District of Columbia and Maryland. Other members of the Bar knew they could trust him. His word was his bond. He had a superb knowledge of the law. He was a scholar of the law; and, above all, his judgment was sound. He appreciated and understood how to handle others and he understood people.
I remember once in a case where we were adversaries and it was a very difficult problem and he took the time out to spend hours talking to my client at my client’s request, and in this way he soothed over a very difficult situation. I know that my client walked away with a renewed faith in our legal system.
Keith Seegmiller still found time, however, to teach. He taught in the Mormon Church Sunday School and he taught a subject, family relations; something his high ethical standard and acute sense of human understanding equipped him well for.
He was also active in politics. He was indeed a man of principle and high standards and yet had an understanding of and appreciated our changing society. Many times he and his wife Elva, would make their home available for political discussions. Keith was the natural moderator of these discussions and he had a particular technique for drawing out people who perhaps didn’t want to talk at first but had something very important to contribute to the discussion. He also knew how to keep the discussion going so that it could come to conclusion.
He visited many people in public office in Montgomery County. Many times Keith Seegmiller was asked to run for public office; however, he refused. He knew that running for public office might well compromise or lead him to compromise many of his high principles. It must be said of any man who over the years worked tirelessly for principles which would lead to the attainment of a more enlightened society, that he had unbounded faith in the principles of government given us by our founding fathers, and in the effectiveness of group action by an informed electorate. These were the tenets to which Keith Seegmiller gave his full measure of commitment.
Keith Seegmiller raised three wonderful children with his wife, Elva.
It barely needs saying that the confidence which Keith had in the ability of his fellows to make the right decisions when their better instincts were appealed to, was a reflection of the regard for all people as children of God was readily apparent from even brief associations with Keith Seegmiller.
The warmth of personality, the sensitivity toward the other person’s situation, the limitless optimism in man’s inexorable course toward eventual good, were traits which marked Keith Seegmiller uniquely and which placed him among the finest in the human breed.
Many of us, for the remainder of our days here, often will turn for counsel and inspiration to the lofty direction and keen discernment bequeathed to us by the memory of Keith Seegmiller.
Your Honors, I join in the motion in these proceedings that they are made a permanent part of these records and a copy of these proceedings be made available to the members of the Seegmiller family.
JUDGE SHOOK: Motion granted.
I have the privilege of responding for the Court in expressing our sorrow and loss of our departed legal brother, Keith Seegmiller.
I had the privilege of knowing Keith Seegmiller when he worked in the Department of Justice; it was many years ago.
As Mr. Docter said, he was an intellectual man; he was regarded as a lawyer’s lawyer; his appellate work was outstanding.
When he left the services of the United States Government, they, indeed, lost a dedicated public employee and servant.
When he came out to Montgomery County to practice and associated with Cecil Custer in Gaithersburg, he had the foresight then that I know many lawyers wish that they had then; he knew what Gaithersburg was going to be; he knew what Montgomery County was going to be; that he would be living downtown as he lived in Rock Creek Hills, near Chevy Chase.
When he came in here to practice, he came to see me and we discussed at some length what his hopes were here in Montgomery County.
We didn’t see him too often in the Courts, because, as I said, he was a lawyer’s lawyer. He knew that the best service he could render to his client was to keep them out of court, and he kept them out of court.
He had a deep devotion to Cecil Custer. He served his clients to the utmost when he was in court. He was respectful; completely ethical, but he also was a forceful man.
As Mr. Docter has said, he was never intimidated by the Judge. He would respectfully disagree, and the Judge had better be on his toes if he disagreed with Keith because he was apt to find himself in reversible error.
We shall, indeed, remember him. Again, may I express to his family our deep sorrow.